Despite its undeniable contribution to the U.S. economy and its energy independence, hydraulic fracturing faces serious criticism over the potential risks it poses to the environment and public health. In a bid to ease these concerns and improve public perception of the industry, oil and gas companies are investing in innovative technologies that can mitigate or prevent the impact of fracking operations, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Fracking companies are most often blamed for toxic emissions, groundwater contamination and failure to conserve and reserve water, so many companies are collaborating with researchers on ways to reduce methane leaks from wells and drilling equipment and reuse wastewater for drilling new wells.
In order to reduce flaring, or burning of extra natural gas, and harmful emissions linked to the process, companies like Norwegian giant Statoil have started to transport excess natural gas via pipeline to drilling rigs, also replacing the more expensive diesel fuel.
But reactions from environmentalists have been rather cautious. While there are indications that oil and gas companies are making efforts to improve some processes and review certain standards, there is much more that they should be required to do, Mark Brownstein, leader of the Environmental Defense Fund's natural gas unit, told the Wall Street Journal. There should be a combination of the right technology, proper management practices and adequate regulation to reduce the risks associated with unconventional oil and gas development, he added.